Five Best Thursday Columns
Rob Reich against private donations to public schools, Adam Chandler on the authenticity of Duck Dynasty, James P. Rubin on comparing Syria and Kosovo, Isaac Chotiner takes on n+1 on humanitarian interventions, and Timothy B. Lee on Jeff Bezos and news bundles.
Rob Reich in The New York Times against private donations to public schools: Schools in wealthy neighborhoods have been raising millions of dollars for students by soliciting funds from the student's wealthy parents. "Private giving to public schools widens the gap between rich and poor. It exacerbates inequalities in financing," the co-director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society writes. "It is philanthropy in the service of conferring advantage on the already well-off." Reich understands that it's human nature for parents to want to improve their children's education, but the tax breaks wealthy parents receive for donating mean the government is subsidizing these self-serving charitable donation. He suggests that donations be spread evenly across schools and that donations to schools should not be tax deductible. Boston Review editor Joshua Cohen called the piece "terrific." "Go Rob!" tweeted Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post.
Adam Chandler in The Wall Street Journal on Duck Dynasty's appeal: Why is a family of bearded hunting gear makers the most popular reality TV characters in America right now? Chandler argues it may be because they are genuine. "A major criticism of reality TV is the footage is edited to create better drama, often by making participants seem clumsier, more vapid or simply mean-spirited," Chandler writes. "But much to the producers' credit, the characters seem in on the joke, and they remain their camo-wearing, Bible-toting selves anyway." At the very least, Chandler notes, the show's popularity means America would rather watch a family concerned with with hard work over the Real Housewives. "It really is a great show," agreed U.S. News communications manager Lucy Lyons. "May have to start watching," tweeted Laura Landro, also at The Journal. Right-wing talk show host Vicki Mckenna summed up the show's appeal for conservatives perfectly, tweeting, "people keep trying to figure out #DuckDynasty's appeal. Easy: IT'S AMERICAN."
James P. Rubin in The New York Times on comparing Syria and Kosovo: The 1999 airstrikes in Kosovo have been widely cited as a precedent for a possible Syria strike, but according to Rubin, who worked in the State Department at the time and is now an executive editor of Bloomberg News, the only similarity between the two countries is that, in both instances, Russia and China opposed the attacks. "Today, after more than a decade, Serbs and Kosovars are beginning to reconcile," Rubin writes. "Such an outcome in Syria is doubtful. The United States and Europe are at odds with Moscow, the Security Council is deadlocked, NATO has stayed on the sidelines, and the Arab League has been ineffectual. There is no strategy to achieve a stable endgame." Rubin recommended that the administration stick to the chemical WMD argument, and not base its argument on the fact that America has a moral duty to save lives. "Interesting piece," noted Neil Brady at The Guardian, while Alistair Burnett at BBC 4 Radio wrote that the piece accurately portrayed Russia's different roles over the years. "I'm only partially convinced but still, a number of good points," tweeted Massimo Pigliucci, a CUNY philosophy professor.
Isaac Chotiner at The New Republic takes on n+1 on humanitarian interventions: n+1 recently reposted a piece on humanitarian interventions, arguing that there has never been a "truly successful, humanitarian humanitarian intervention." Chotiner argues the US fighting the Nazis counts, and goes on to critique the examples of failed interventions the n+1 piece gives — Vietnam in Cambodia and India in Pakistan. But his main complaint is that the piece is too critical of why countries intervene. "There is real solipsism in analysis like this, as if what really counts are the thoughts in the head of the people intervening rather than the reality on the ground," Chotiner writes. "Perhaps the n+1 team, as the next step on the road to a morally pure world, can write an editorial calling for charitable contributions that are made with self-interested motives to be declared illegal." Simon van Zuylen-Wood of Philadelphia magazine tweeted that the piece demolished the n+1 argument. However, n+1 editor Keith Gessen was less impressed. "TNR is right. In our anti-intervention piece, we forgot about how USA saved Europe from the Nazis," he tweeted, later adding "Hard to get past Nazi reference. With [Yom Kippur] coming up, to atone for past sins, TNR should impose ban on word 'Nazi' for next 50 years."
Timothy B. Lee in The Washington Post on the end of the news bundle: During his visit to The Post offices this week, the paper's new owner, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, said he wanted to go back to the glory days of the newspaper bundle, when people read the full paper at the breakfast table over coffee. At least one of his new employees disagrees with him. "Trying to recreate the 'bundle' experience in Web or tablet form means working against the grain of how readers, especially younger readers, consume the news today," Lee writes. "In the long run, it’s a recipe for an aging readership and slow growth." Lee also argues that rewriting, or aggregation, which Bezos is against, isn't the problem either. The original article has more time to polish their piece and present it well. It's the presentation that's lacking. "The problem is that traditional news organizations, while good at gathering the news, are often bad at selling it online." Justin Green at The Washington Examiner tweeted, "This @binarybits bit is close to perfect." Tom Gara at The Wall Street Journal disagreed, however, writing "When it comes to serious news and reporting, I'm on team bundle. Bundles are still great."